Amid Uncertainty Over Hollywood Strikes, TIFF Reveals Star-Studded Lineup of Gala and Special Presentations for 2023 Fest
Michael Keaton, 71, in 'Knox Goes Away,' which he directed and stars in as a hit man with dementia called upon to do one last job. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF
Hollywood’s ongoing SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike casts doubt on how star-studded the red carpets lining Toronto theatres will be during the 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. But there’s no question the screens inside those theatres will glow with marquee talent in front of, and behind, the camera, judging by the list of films in the Galas and Special Presentations programs announced by the festival today.
Some 60 such films will screen during TIFF’s 10-day run, from Sept. 7 through 17. Films in these two programs are typically high profile and, as per usual, there’s an exciting mix of world, North American, Canadian, and international premieres from filmmakers working across the planet.
Among them is The Dead Don’t Hurt, from actor Viggo Mortensen, 64, his second time around as director after his acclaimed 2020 feature Falling. The film, being described as something of a “feminist western,” is set in the 1860s and stars Vicky Krieps as a progressive French-Canadian woman in California in a relationship with a Danish immigrant played by Mortensen. It makes its world premiere at TIFF.
Onetime Batman star Michael Keaton, who turns 72 two days before TIFF’s launch, is also in the director’s chair for the second time with Knox Goes Away, a thriller about a hit man with dementia called upon to do one last job. Keaton stars as the title character alongside Al Pacino, 83, and Marcia Gay Harden, 63. (As a sidebar, Keaton was recently confirmed for director Tim Burton’s very-long-awaited follow-up to 1988’s classic Beetlejuice, expected to drop next year.)
Another actor taking his place behind the camera is Ethan Hawke, 52, whose feature Wildcat — making its international premiere in Toronto — follows the life of writer Flannery O’Connor as she struggles to publish her first novel. Interestingly, it stars Hawke’s adult daughter Maya in the title role opposite Laura Linney, 59, and Vincent D’Onofrio, 64.
Speaking of contract killers, 62-year-old director Richard Linklater’s latest Hit Man gets its North American premiere in Toronto. Loosely fact-based, it apparently tells the story of a workaday professor thrust into the white-knuckle world of crime and stars Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! star Glen Powell.
Festival favourite Olivia Colman, 49, re-teams with her The Lost Daughter co-star Jessie Buckley and Timothy Spall, 66, in Wicked Little Letters about a small English town scandalized by obscene but anonymous letters that start turning up in people’s mailboxes. It’s directed by Briton Thea Sharrock perhaps best known for the 2016 tearjerker, Me Before You.
Another hotly anticipated reunion happening at TIFF finds Alexander Payne, 62, directing his Sideways sidekick Paul Giamatti, 56, in The Holdovers, about a glum and disliked teacher at a private school circa 1971 stuck overseeing students unable to go home over the Christmas holiday. It’s making its international premiere here before heading to Netflix later this year.
Cate Blanchett, 54, returned to her native Australia to play a nun in director Warwick Thornton’s The New Boy about a 1940s-era orphaned Aboriginal child who might possess a very special gift. Child star Aswan Reid is apparently amazing in the film; so too was the 53-year-old director’s jaw-dropping Samson & Delilah from 2009. Here, Thornton also serves as writer and cinematographer. Expect sparks.
Eyes will also be trained on 58-year-old director Jonathan Glazer’s Second World War feature The Zone of Interest. Based on the 2014 novel by Martin Amis, the film premiered last spring at Cannes to uniform praise, winning the Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Prize.
Its IMDb blurb describes it thusly: “The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.” Chilling to say the least.
Also arriving from Cannes with acclaim: director Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, which makes its Canadian premiere at the festival after nabbing the coveted the Palme d’Or last spring. Like Glazer’s Zone of Interest, it stars 45-year-old German actor Sandra Hüller (see also Toni Erdmann from 2016), here as a woman suspected of killing her partner.
Last week, TIFF announced that 63-year-old homegrown director Atom Egoyan’s Seven Veils would have its world premiere as a Special Presentation at the festival, Egoyan’s 18th film to launch in Toronto. The opera-inspired film stars Amanda Seyfried with Rebecca Liddiard, Douglas Smith, Mark O’Brien, and Vinessa Antoine.
Also of note in the Gala and Special Presentations programs: actor Kristin Scott Thomas, 63, makes her feature directorial debut with the semi-autobiographical North Star, starring Scarlett Johansson and Sienna Miller, while Bobby Cannavale, 53, stars opposite Robert De Niro, 79 and Rose Byrne, 44, in Ezra, director Tony Goldwyn’s drama about a standup comedian and his special needs son.
See below for a complete list of the Galas and Special Presentations — including director, country of origin, and premiere status — confirmed for this year’s festival. Tickets for TIFF 2023 go on sale to TIFF Members beginning Aug. 18. The full festival schedule will be released in August.
GALA PRESENTATIONS 2023
Concrete Utopia Um Tae-Hwa | South Korea (North American Premiere)
Dumb Money Craig Gillespie | USA (World Premiere)
Fair Play Chloe Domont | USA (International Premiere)
Flora and Son John Carney | Ireland/USA (Canadian Premiere)
Hate to Love: Nickelback Leigh Brooks | Canada (World Premiere)
Lee Ellen Kuras | United Kingdom (World Premiere)
Next Goal Wins Taika Waititi | USA (World Premiere)
NYAD Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin | USA (International Premiere)
Punjab ’95 Honey Trehan | India (World Premiere)
Solo Sophie Dupuis | Canada (World Premiere)
The End We Start From Mahalia Belo | United Kingdom (World Premiere)
The Movie Emperor Ning Hao | China (World Premiere)
The New Boy Warwick Thornton | Australia (North American Premiere)
The Royal Hotel Kitty Green | Australia/United Kingdom (Canadian Premiere)
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS 2023
A Difficult Year Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache | France (International Premiere)
A Normal Family Hur Jin-ho | South Korea (World Premiere)
American Fiction Cord Jefferson | USA (World Premiere)
Anatomy of a Fall Justine Triet | France (Canadian Premiere)
Close to You Dominic Savage | Canada/United Kingdom (World Premiere)
Days of Happiness Chloé Robichaud | Canada (World Premiere)
El Rapto Daniela Goggi | Argentina (North American Premiere)
Ezra Tony Goldwyn | USA (World Premiere)
Fingernails Christos Nikou | USA (International Premiere)
Four Daughters Kaouther Ben Hania | France/Tunisia/Germany/Saudi Arabia (North American Premiere)
His Three Daughters Azazel Jacobs | USA (World Premiere)
Hit Man Richard Linklater | USA (North American Premiere)
In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon Alex Gibney | USA (World Premiere)
Kidnapped Marco Bellocchio | Italy/France/Germany (North American Premiere)
Knox Goes Away Michael Keaton | USA (World Premiere)
La Chimera Alice Rohrwacher | Italy/France/Switzerland (North American Premiere)
Last Summer Catherine Breillat | France (North American Premiere)
Les Indésirables Ladj Ly | France (World Premiere)
Memory Michel Franco | USA/Mexico (North American Premiere)
Monster Kore-eda Hirokazu | Japan (North American Premiere)
Mother Couch Niclas Larsson | USA (World Premiere)
North Star Kristin Scott Thomas | United Kingdom (World Premiere)
One Life James Hawes | United Kingdom (World Premiere)
Pain Hustlers David Yates | USA (World Premiere)
Poolman Chris Pine | USA (World Premiere)
Reptile Grant Singer | USA (World Premiere)
Rustin George C. Wolfe | USA (International Premiere)
Seven Veils Atom Egoyan | Canada (World Premiere)
Shoshana Michael Winterbottom | United Kingdom/Italy (World Premiere)
Sing Sing Greg Kwedar | USA (World Premiere)
Smugglers Ryoo Seung-wan | South Korea (North American Premiere)
Swan Song Chelsea McMullan | Canada (World Premiere)
The Beast Bertrand Bonello | France/Canada (North American Premiere)
The Burial Maggie Betts | USA (World Premiere)
The Convert Lee Tamahori | Australia/New Zealand (World Premiere)
The Critic Anand Tucker | United Kingdom (World Premiere)
The Dead Don’t Hurt Viggo Mortensen | Mexico/Canada/Denmark (World Premiere)
The Holdovers Alexander Payne | USA (International Premiere)
The Peasants DK Welchman, Hugh Welchman | Poland/Serbia/Lithuania (World Premiere)
The Zone of Interest Jonathan Glazer | United Kingdom/Poland/USA (Canadian Premiere)
Together 99 Lukas Moodysson | Sweden/Denmark (World Premiere)
Unicorns Sally El Hosaini, James Krishna Floyd | United Kingdom/USA/Sweden (World Premiere)
Uproar Paul Middleditch, Hamish Bennett | New Zealand (World Premiere)
Wicked Little Letters Thea Sharrock | United Kingdom (World Premiere)
Wildcat Ethan Hawke | USA (International Premiere)
Woman of the Hour Anna Kendrick | USA (World Premiere)